The passing of ‘exceptional’ former AACR Health Minister, Aurelio Montegriffo, was marked with heartfelt condolences from members of parliament yesterday.
The family of the late Mr Montegriffo attended the opening of Parliament where members underscored his “revolutionary” work in the field of health.
Mr Montegriffo died last Sunday, aged 97, and was a founder member of the AACR party, he was Gibraltar’s first Minister for Health having assumed the post in 1964.
The tributes began with Chief Minister Fabian Minister who remarked on Mr Montegriffo’s contributions to Gibraltar.
Mr Picardo noted how all politicians have built on the work of Mr Montegriffo and the AACR after the war.
“They started to build a community that would become a nation,” Mr Picardo said when offering his condolences.
Parliamentary Leader of the Opposition, Elliott Phillips, said although he had never met Mr Montegriffo he has become aware of his work, and has “missed out” on knowing him.
“I have discovered he was a man of deep conviction and faith,” Mr Phillips said.
He outlined Mr Montegriffo’s “impressive” political achievements and how many lessons could be learnt by “our forefathers”.
Independent MP, Marlene Hassan Nahon, gave an emotive speech drawing her personal relationship with Mr Montegriffo who had served when her father, Sir Joshua Hassan, was Chief Minister of Gibraltar.
“I felt I lost another piece of my father,” Mrs Hassan Nahon said.
“Aurelio was one of my father’s closest political and professional allies.”
Ms Hassan Nahon called Mr Montegriffo’s passing the “end of an era” as he was the last living founder member of the AACR.
She stressed he was a “pioneer, defender and one of the forefathers” of Gibraltar, and had the vision to provide the Rock with its first Primary Care Centre, known then as the ‘Health Centre’.
Mr Montergriffo died peacefully in his sleep and Mrs Hassan Nahon highlight he was the committed father of six children, 18 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.
“Aurelio was an exceptional man in our frontline shaping what we are today,” Mrs Hasson Nahon said.
Deputy Chief Minister, Joseph Garcia, said he too had the pleasure of meeting Mr Montegriffo during his times at the Gibraltar Evening Post.
Dr Garcia called him a “historical political figure” who had a very “human” approach to politics.
Independent MP Lawrence Llamas told the House that although he never met Mr Montegriffo he has learnt about what a “genuine and loving” person he was.
Mr Montegriffo’s work in the health service was marked by incumbent Minister for Health, Neil Costa, who noted how his contributions had laid the “foundations” for Gibraltar.
“Many foundations we take for granted in the health service were laid by Aurelio,” Mr Costa said.
Mr Costa underscored his work was “revolutionary” in particular when launching the ‘sponsored patients’ scheme.
He added it is thanks to Mr Montegriffo’s “vision” that many health services are available to this day.
The Minister for Education, John Cortes, spoke of his personal dealings with Mr Montegriffo and offered his condolences.
Mr Montegriffo had a special impact on the life of current Speaker of the House, Adolfo Canepa, who he had introduced to politics.
“It has struck me that I owe sitting here today to Aurelio,” Mr Canepa said.
Mr Canepa described how he met Mr Montegriffo aged 10 and when he returned from university was invited to join the executive committee of the AACR.
“He was a man of great ideals and commitment,” Mr Canepa said.
The friendship between Mr Canepa and Mr Montegriffo blossomed over six decades to the point where they felt like “extended family”.
“I share very happy memories of Aurelio, may he rest in peace,” Mr Canepa said.
The offers of condolences then came to a close that the parliamentary session.
Mr Montegriffo served as a City Councillor from 1947 to 1969, having first been elected to the Legislative Council in 1957 and served as Deputy Mayor in 1964.
He was also Member of the House of Assembly from 1969 to 1980.
Under the AACR Government Mr Montegriffo was Minister of Health from 1964 to 1969. Then in 1972 when he became the Deputy Leader of the party he also became Deputy Chief Minister and remained as such from 1972 to 1980. During all this time he was also health minister, and retired from political life in 1980.